The Dambulla cave monastery is still functional and remains the best preserved ancient edifice in Sri Lanka. This complex dates from the 3rd and 2nd centuries BC. It was established as one of the largest and most important monasteries. King Valagambahu is traditionally thought to have converted the caves in to a temple in the 1st century BC. Exiled from Anuradhapura, he sought refuge from South Indian usurpers in these caves for 15 years. After reclaiming his capital, the king built temples in grateful worship. Many other kings added to it later and by the 11th century the cave had become a major religious center and still remains to be the same. King Nissankamalla gilded the caves and added about 70 Buddha statues in 1190. During the 18th century the caves were restored and painted by The Kandian King.
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